Friday, May 13, 2011

What's Working For Us [At This Moment]

As I read different blogs, I really enjoy reading what's working (and what's not) for the different home schooling families on my blog roll.  Granted, I read a variety of blogs, whose authors uses a variety of methods.  I like all the variety.  I like learning from others, getting a fresh and sometimes different perspective on how to approach a particular subject matter, using an array of materials/curricula/etc.  I  like how it can often stretch my imagination of what could work for us.

I have learned and already implemented these new (and not so new) ideas & approaches to learning.  A few years back, before we 'officially' started home learning, I read a lot from parents who were using an unschooling approach.  These blogs assisted me in relaxing, being flexible, and just allowing our day to unfold--which is definitely a good way to be in general with home learning, no matter what method you use.  Being able to change, readjust, reformulate, let go of what doesn't work and move on to what does/will, is one of the benefits of homeschooling.

Anyway.  There are things we do daily, that are just part of our routine regardless of how the day unfolds.  There are other things that 'show up' only when they're planned. We are all learning to be a bit more structured in certain areas of our lives and to be more relaxed in others.  It's all a balance, right?

I am still using Saxon Phonics with Pretty Girl, and now Sweetie-pie, daily.  There are an assortment of phonics programs, books, kits, supplements to choose from.  I like the approach, how it includes spelling and reading and since it's working for both the girls, we are going to stick with it.  From a teacher perspective, phonics is phonics no matter how it's taught (alphabetically or another ordering).  I've been blessed with all the material for all the levels they have (K-2).  I did have to purchase the teacher's editions, but found them on ebay for pennies!  So, this is a keeper!

English/Grammar is one of my strengths (my husbands as well) and I rarely used a textbook while in the classroom.  We use a call and response method for learning rules and I've been pulling activities from several places--my head (smile), the Shurley Method (jingles & diagramming sentences--I used this method while a teacher), several teacher resource books (specifically for grammar practice) and an old language book that I actually used when I was in school many moons ago.  The good things about grammar is that it really hasn't changed.  The things that have changed are on the HS or College Level, so although we may not be doing the exact same things as everyone else, we're learning parts of speech/sentence, how to diagram sentences (which reinforces the knowledge of parts of speech/sentence), proper use of punctuation and subject verb agreement.  For now, I feel confident in what we're doing and the children enjoy the call and response way in which I lead them in learning.

I just finished reading the book Writing with Ease by Susan Bauer and decided that I liked how her suggestions gentle taught writing.  I took a weekend to hand-copy the pertinent information from the book so that I can use it with Pretty Girl in the fall.  I've been doing little bits of this approach already--sentence dictation, reading and asking comprehension questions, copying sentences from text we've already read (doubling as handwriting, some call it note-booking).  The plan Susan sets out in her book is a weekly plan making sure each piece is done strategically, building on the previous learning.  I think this will work for us since it takes the pressure of writing independently before the student is ready--which can be a source for early frustration with writing.  I want to avoid as much of that as I can! lol

Reading.  That's a big one, as it pulls together all the smaller parts.  Right now we're not using a specific series or curriculum.  I've been looking at several options and trying to decide which one will benefit us.  Presently, we've been using easy readers--the ones you can find anywhere, specifically the library! :D  I have a nice easy reader library here at home as well.  I'd like something a little more systematic, that may be because that's just what I'm used to.  Pretty Girl does do well with a predictable way of material being presented.  I've been using volume one of the McGruffy Readers, but don't really care of the images.  I have found a couple series of readers without images and will take a closer look at them at our upcoming homeschool conference this summer.  Reading is reading and so on some level, I question whether we really need anything specific.  One the other hand, there is something to be said about a systematic approach to reading, especially those children who learn best this way, as Pretty Girl does.  We'll see what I figure out from viewing them first hand.

Mathematics is still a very hands-on subject for us.  We have a nice collection of manipulatives, which I'm looking to expand a bit more for The Boy this fall.  Pretty Girl really likes having a workbook--so a workbook is what she has!  She does work in it daily.  I also give her a daily word problem from the book Read! Draw! Solve!  The approach is to draw out the problem to make it something you can visualize and then solve it.  Pretty Girl has liked this because she enjoys drawing!!  I've changed it up slightly now that she knows what key words mean addition or subtraction.  When I saw that she was spending more time on the drawing (wanting to color it, giving great details and features to people and animals) part of the problem, I now only have her do the drawing part of a problem once a week.  She breezes through them now and will ask to leave out the drawing step since she "has it" (her words) now.  I'm thankful it worked so well.  I remember loathing word problems in school.

We also use several board games with reinforce math skills.  One of our favorites is Chutes and Ladders.  It's good for reinforcing counting skills (like more board games generally can).  But I really like the numbers on the board.  We can do addition with each forward move; subtraction with each backward move.  The children also like the different versions of Bingo we can play with numbers, number sentences and other math concepts.

Science and Social Studies are learn directly through literature right now.  We learn and study based on our interests.  We spent a good part of this year reading about animals--mammals specifically--for science.  We've done experiments with water, magnets, plants, etc. using resource books from the library.  Social Studies was more of a discussion lead time, although I did read a lot about people and topics on community, cooperation, work.  Our homeschool group's geography club, Globetrotters, gave us direction in our study of the world--continents.  We did in depth study of a few countries in which we presented during our meeting each month.

I incorporate art and music this way as well--based on our interest or desire to hear something new.  Music is usually playing in the back ground of our days.  We've then read books about several jazz musicians.  I've found some great 'how to draw' books there as well.  We've just checked out one that shows how to use letters and numbers to draw just about anything (that children are interested in).  I've also picked of a few good ones at thrift stores.  The Boy enjoys art and drawing pirates, dinosaurs, sharks and reptiles.  He uses these books to help him illustrate the stories he composes (I write them out for him--we have quite a nice system! lol).

Of course our daily routine plays into the overall learning that takes place in our home.  The field trips and outings we have done this year also add to our experience as well.

I've decided that we will continue our 'school time' throughout the summer.  We spent 2 to 4 hours daily on our structured learning time, more flexible on some days than others.  Since I'll have to report both girls in the Fall, I will use that time to 'start' the new things I'd like to implement.  The things I've shared above are things I'm planning to keep in our daily learning time.  There are a few other things I'm planning to add.  Until then, I'll continuing reading, investigating, talking to those who've used the materials.  Once I get to view the materials this summer I'm looking forward to moving on the choices I'll be making for our learning experience at home.

1 comment:

Milk and Honey Mommy said...


We are also finally getting a comfort level w/many of our subjects we cover. It has been a long time coming seeing what does and doesn't work. We have been using FLL and really enjoy that curriculum. I am going to look into Writing w/Ease because it is Susan's talk on writing that led me to their curriculum. I like her approach w/me also having a background in English and wanting a more intensive approach to the way I know and want to teach my children.


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